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Posts Tagged ‘Mont Blanc’

Step Off

Posted by Dirck on 16 December, 2013

I have a Christmas wish to say aloud; I understand Santa, like some national governments, has loads of staff devoted to watching the internet.  First, though, let me show you some contextual pictures:

I have a very small problem with a design element which these pens have in common with a lot of other moderns.  Let me steal some pictures from elsewhere so you can see more of it.  First, from a news item on FPGeeks


— and then from Montegrappa’s own site.


I invoke “fair comment” for the above and some material to follow.  The thing that is giving me a problem, which is actually muting my enjoyment of fountain pens, and which I’m going to ask Santa to leave notes in the stockings of the world’s pen designers, is the substantial step where the section meets the barrel.  In many cases, it doesn’t affect the function of the pen except of a minority of the tender-skinned, but it’s a threat, a constant menace to the mind if not the hand.  The reason for it is clear enough, as it makes for a smooth transition from cap to barrel when the pen is closed…

…but it isn’t necessary to make it a large step.  Today’s pen, for example, has a smooth cap/barrel interface, but the step is very small.   It’s not necessary to do silly crap like this


…unless you’re only interested in a pen that people stare at.  The smooth transition isn’t too hard to accomplish with modern materials, and I notice that some of the grander pens like the Mont Blanc Meisterstück and the Pelikan Souverän aren’t troubled by the cap overhanging the barrel.  Perhaps umlauts help.

In any event, I hope it will stop.  That thing I lifted from the Geeks has a Zeppelin tie-in, so it combines two things I find really neat– fountain pens and rigid bodied lighter-than-air flight– yet it leaves me doing little more than shrugging.  I’m asking Santa, in essence, for a renewal of my joie de vivre supplies.

Same as everyone else, really.

Today’s nigh-stepless pen: Sheaffer Targa
Today’s quietly festive ink: Herbin Bleu Myosotis


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Balancing Remembrance

Posted by Dirck on 7 November, 2013

After yesterday’s entry, I should be saying something about pens, but 11 November is nearly upon us and I feel constrained to make some observation upon it.  If what’s in my To Do box plays out as I expect, I’ll definitely be in with a Pen vs. Ink story next week, a conflict I also deplore but one with rather fewer consequences.

This week, I changed my Facebook picture to something appropriate to the impending Remembrance Day, but containing also a reference to the more recent role of Canadian troops in seeing the occupying forces out of the Netherlands.  This prompted one of my friends there to send me a note, in which he commented on the odd coincidence of timing of my change of picture and his reading up on Leo Major.  Had I heard of him?

I’m amazed I hadn’t, and I wonder if I’m an anomaly or representative of a strangely uninformed majority of my countrymen.  Amazed, because it’s the sort of thing that epic poems used to be written about.  I’ll summarize what I’ve found since, which is available at somewhat more length in the rather better French Wikipedia entry on him (the English one is oddly choppy):

  • Shortly after D-Day, kills four SS soldiers, drives off however many others fit into a Hanomag, and captures imporant codes and communications equipment… and loses his left eye to a phosphorous grenade.
  • On a one-man scouting expedition, captures 93 Werhmacht soldiers; possibly assisted by the SS shooting at them when the Werhmacht officer was seen in the act of capitulation.
  • Wounded by an anti-tank mine, he flees the field hospital to avoid being send home for having multiple spinal fractures; spends a month AWOL recovering in a barn before rejoining his unit.
  • Part of a two-man recon, is spurred by the loss of his companion to capture first the machine gun nest responsible, and then the entire town of Zwolle through a combination of taking prisoners and lying to them about the size of the attacking force, and running around madly firing three different weapons and throwing grenades.  Kills unknown numbers of enemy soldiers, including four out of a group of eight SS he happened upon.
  • In Korea, is sent as part of a twenty man squad to see what might be might be done about the Chinese taking of a hill previously held by 10,000 Americans.  The Chinese are frightened away, regroup, and send an unsuccessful 14,000 men to retake the position.  Holds out for three days until relief appears.

You would think someone like that would be on the tip of all tongues, eh?

Now, the other thing I heard about this week which I had not been previously aware of is the White Poppy campaign.  I’m slightly concerned to not have heard of this previously, as I do pay some attention to things like this; it is a long-standing effort, although if the CBC item I was listening to it is perhaps somewhat intermittent, to memorialize the loss of the war dead without a lot of chest-thumping and glorification of war itself.

I’m all for that, and it is perhaps somewhat at odds with the tale of Leo Major that I start with, which is very easy to turn into a Stunning War Tales Illustrated adventure.  However, there’s a couple of items lurking in his story that actually mesh reasonably well with a reduction of chest thumping.  The minor one is connected with his capture of the 93 Germans; he declined decoration for his actions as a protest against what he saw as the horrible mistake of Operation Market Garden.  The bigger one comes from his rampage in Zwolle, where by his own report he wasn’t really aiming at most of the Germans he happened upon, but was rather just trying to come across as an awful big bunch of guys.  The SS men were killed because they drew on him.  Another officer, not of the SS, he sat and talked to, essentially telling him is was rather late in the war to get killed, so why doesn’t he take his men and bugger off home while there’s time– which he apparently did.  He was not a kill-crazed berserker, for all that he was very good at the arts of war.  Fleeing was satisfactory.

One more item, attached to Major’s story but not strictly of it, comes from someone living near Zwolle.  Speaking about the evident preparation on the German part for the appearance of Allied troops,

A neighbour reassured him, he says, insisting a quick, efficient liberation was at hand.

“He said, ‘We are lucky because the (soldiers) that come through here are from Canada … and they always have fire in the belly.”

and if there’s any glorification to be done to war, it lies there.  Efficient delivery from tyranny.  While it’s easy to make Leo Major into a cartoon of bloody action, it’s probably better to think of him as a distillation of a good soldier– if it’s got to be done, let’s get it done and be done.  I’m very happy to have been introduced to this figure of history; a spark of patriotic pride, rather dampened by current politics, is rekindled in my bosom.  I’m not wearing a white poppy, not because I want to glorify the bloodshed attached to Major’s career and the entire enterprise of war, but because the red stands to remind of the cost of that enterprise.

What I said yesterday about the evident human predisposition to clump into opposing factions is not something I’m neglecting in this; it’s what drives wars, and if we’re going to ponder the stopping of them, surely a reminder of what comes of not stopping them is a valuable thing.


Today’s pen: Pelikan M600
Today’s ink: Mont Blanc Racing Green

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The Thing from the Crypt!

Posted by Dirck on 30 October, 2013

Since the only thing that’s really seasonally thematic about today’s entry is the title, let me give you the extra puffery from the non-existent poster for the film of the same name– It came from the East!  Dormant for years, it rose at last!

It… oh, sorry, It! is the latest book to house my journalling efforts, which promise if I keep up the current daily outpourings to demand an annex of their own.   The last couple have been the delightful Rhodia Webbie A5, but I didn’t have one on standby when the most recent filled up.  This sounds like poor planning, but I let the situation develop because I knew I had a few other blank books at hand to fill in, and I might as well start using things I had lying around rather than buying new (even if those new buys are done at local businesses).  The only hesitation was which of the candidates to use, and the choice ended up being based on seniority.

The new book is not, to be honest, as nice as the Webbie, as the paper is thinner, rougher, and somewhat more given to feathering.  However, given how long I’ve had it about the place, I shouldn’t let these considerations prevent me from getting on with it, lest it never be used at all.  For all that there’s a bit of feathering, there’s no more bleedthrough than the Webbie ever showed, and with 224 relatively thin pages, it will allow me to rest a good long time before the next selection.  Given the length of this thing’s lay about, a long rest is appropriate.

How long is that, then?  Well, I can’t really say for sure, because I don’t remember just when I bought it.  Here’s a hint, though, from inside the back cover:


Sometime after the introduction of bar-codes, at least.

Since Czechoslovakia underwent fission on the last day of 1992, it’s entirely likely that I’ve had this unwritten-in book longer than I’ve known my wife.  I’ve had a look at this new-fangled internet thing, and find Pragotrade is still an import house in Ontario.  I don’t know if they have any connection with the most commonly found items bearing that name, industrial kitchen machinery (meat grinders and the like) and I really doubt they’ve anything to do with an asphalt recycler in the Czech Republic.

Those wise in the ways of retailing might say that the last date of manufacture doesn’t have much to do with the last date of possible retailing, and that’s entirely true.  However, I have another image, this time of the front cover, which I want you all to brace yourselves for.  It’s a little shocking.  Try not to cry out when you see it.

Oh, the inflation!

Horror!  We used to be able to afford things!

The shock, of course, is that price for a relatively fountain pen-friendly notebook, but the point of evidence is the logo on that price-tag.  I got this book at Woolco, one of the wonderful pre-Big-Box discount department stores.  Wonderful, in that the cheapness of the products was right there on the surface, but might not seriously affect the substance; rather the opposite effect seems to hold with the modern Big Box fillings.  Woolco, which lasted longer in Canada than in the US, was absorbed by the gluttonous monarch of the Big Boxes which I dare not name in 1994, so there’s no way I got this book later than then.  It has been waiting not less than nineteen years for me to get around to doing something with it; curses, vampires, mummies and this book have intense patience in common.

Now, to end on a proper Lovecraftian italicization, I will refer once more to the price tag.  It’s colour-coded, to indicate a sale item, and so you might think the regular price might be more in line with what we currently expect to pay for a capacious sewn notebook with moderately good paper.  On the inside of the front cover, though, is another tag, plain white, with the normal price indicated there.  This book, in its regular daily round of sales, cost only $1.59!

Today’s pen: Pelikan M600
Today’s ink: Mont Blanc Racing Green

(The alternate title, by the way, for the edited-for-TV release, is The Student Requisite of Prague.)

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Starting Out Properly

Posted by Dirck on 22 October, 2013

Some long time ago, I made a little noise here about an amendment I’d made in the formation of my capital G, and I’ve been getting Google hits about “Cursive G” ever since (some of which, I assume, are not misguided efforts to discover details of Sacha Baron Cohen’s early career).  I thought I might consider another re-taught capital today, and to do so, I’m going right to the beginning of the alphabet.


Shall I make a “taking myself too literally” pun here?

Well… maybe not right to the beginning, but to the front of it at any rate.  One of the things that bothered me about the cursive hand I learned under the harsh discipline of Mrs. Sipes back in good ol’ Assiniboine School (long since made into a housing development for people whose children have a very long walk to get to school) was that the only difference between the lower- and upper-case was a matter of scale.

A less disasterous Little Boy and Fat Man

A less disastrous Little Boy and Fat Man

I felt, frankly, rather silly with that, and even more so when my writing included things like “Aaron” or “Aachen”.  Not regular inclusions, I’ll grant, but enough to put me off my stride.  There was a patch, after I was out of University and any writing I did had no time limit, when I dabbled with print rather than cursive.  That wasn’t entirely motivated by this A problem, since my father in a magnificent round of “pot calls kettle black” had made me very self-conscious about my writing, but there was an element of relief in making a nice angular A.

The problem with print, at least for me, is that it’s blinkin’ slow.  That’s the whole reason there is cursive.  By degrees, I gave up on print for a second time (the first courtesy Mrs. Sipes and her razor-tongued tuition), and in a mostly unconnected move, got married.  Mostly, as the overt romance began with a letter.

One day, an unconscionable length of time after the marriage, I was reading something my wife had written, and my attention drifted from the content of the message to the medium itself.  “I say,” I said aloud, “that’s a damn handsome way of making an A you’ve got there.”  She had apparently been taught as much by her mother as by her school in this area, and the traditional A of her family looks like this:

The great thing about our house; no one ever complains about a request to use a pen.

The great thing about our house; no one ever complains about a request to use a pen.  This image courtesy my wife and her heap of No Nonsenses.

The big central loop, which brings the pen back for the next letter, may hint at the evolution of the version I object to, but the angle I wanted was right there.  Delightful!  I set to work, in much the same way as with the G, to the task of burning the previous habit out of myself and instilling this new thing in its place.  My wife is rather more careful with her writing than I, which I think might actually be a point of difference generally attributable between the genders, so what I’ve currently got is a little less complete in its presentation.


On to the next letter! No time to tarry!

The failure to close that loop is mainly down to my overall habit of light hands, so the pen starts lifting at what might be thought a premature point.  Impatience is only a tiny element in it.  I’m pretty happy with this, since it gets ever further from the hated Giant Lower Case object that haunted me for so long.  Recently, though, I got something back from a Regular Job client which made me think I may not be quite done with habit reformation…

"I don't got no delta in my name!  Danggummit!"

“I don’t got no delta in my name! Danggummit!”

I don’t honestly recall what the actual word objected to was– this is what we might call an artist’s conception of the response.  Apparently, someone really didn’t like my current A.  Over the weeks since this passed under my nose, it hasn’t exactly been chafing at my imagination, but it occasionally surfaces.  I finally, during a free moment when I could actually consider the matter, hit upon something.  My wife’s family A may be a very long-lived heirloom indeed, because when you think about it, the artistic cursive (and I here reveal my ignorance because I don’t really know if this is technically Copperplate or not) is formed very much the same way.

And the semi-flex pen I had in batter needs more space to show its paces than the rest.

And the semi-flex pen I had in battery needs more space to show its paces than the rest.

A terrible example, but it serves to show the affiliation.  With that in mind, I took the pen of that day, an completely flex-free item, and tried the sinuous shape of this formalized version.  The result was interesting.

It might also be called "attenuated".

It might also be called “attenuated”.

The change in shape of the down-stroke amends the upward loop, which not only makes it easier to close but also compresses it.  I don’t know if my triggering curmudgeon would have any more brief with this than he did the one he corrected, but it lies a little closer to the print A while remaining a single line.  I’m not, I’ll admit, entirely convinced of the need for further amendment nor am I entirely pleased with this somewhat spidery development of the letter, though.  I may stick where I am, and keep this in reserve for special occasions.

Like when I’ve got a flex pen.

Yesterday’s model and today’s pen: Pelikan M600
Today’s ink: Mont Blanc Racing Green

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It’s Only A Pen

Posted by Dirck on 1 August, 2013

A while ago I was reading a thread on a forum enquiring whether, at the time of production, a particular model of pen would have been treated with the degree of reverence which it currently seems to draw.  As is ever the case on the internet, there was a diversity of opinion with various degrees of heat underlying them.  I didn’t participate, having previously uttered heretical views on the model in hand.

I was, however, put into a frame of contemplation.  I suspect there isn’t really a uniform answer the to question, since it examines human behaviour.  Whatever the possession in question, some people will pursue a policy of careful maintenance, others a course of indifferent neglect, and a few will thrust for the pointy bits of the bell-curve through both idolatry and focussed exercises in destruction.

I add to this generality some observations of films made in ages past, and likewise of pens.  The films somewhat bear out my general appreciation, since in general whatever writing they include is not really the point of the narrative– even in the first days of cinema, one didn’t find “A Clerk Engaged Upon His Writing” drawing crowds– so whatever writing goes on will be largely informed by the habits of the actor rather than the specific dictates of the director.  The way the pens were treated depends somewhat on the context, but that treatment ran from careful through to negligent tossing of a malfunctioning Parker in Hell is for Heroes.  This appreciation of the ways of past pen treatment is coloured somewhat by a knowledge of actors, both from reports and direct encounters; if the scene isn’t about the treatment of the pen, or the character isn’t given to care and precision, there’s a tendency towards negligence.  So that result is skewed.

There is also the matter of materials.  The early hard rubber pens, although somewhat less brittle when fresh from the factory, were not super-sturdy, and the way they feel underlines this aspect of their nature.  I have one that I’ve described as having inverse weight, and even newly made hard rubber pens, of which there are some in the world, have an aura of organic frailty about them.  One doesn’t (usually) cringe from handling them, but neither does one with even a fragment of mindfulness toss them briskly down on the desk when the note is done.  Celluloid is a little less disaster-prone, and has a similar way of informing the fingertips about its relative durability.  Modern plastics, for all their alien, factory-born nature, do likewise (and yes, I’m aware that the same phrase can be applied to cellulose nitrate and vulcanised rubber; but each still bears some wisp of tree-ness about it).

That last notion interacts somewhat with the individual sense of how to handle possessions, of course.  A more careful person will notice fragility sooner than the carefree.  I imagine that there were, back in the day, people who firmly tossed their hard rubber pen onto the desk once note was writ, but they are apt to have given up on pens in favour of pencils after the expense of that kind of habit bore in on them.

In a different place, I liken fountain pens of days gone by as rough equivalent to today’s smart-phones.  Some are more desirable than others, all are more or less expensive tools of communication.  Did people treat pens with deference back in the day?  Well… I think the answer might come from watching the way people treat their phones.  Careful maintenance, indifferent neglect, and all stops in between.  You might make allowance for the relatively recent notion of disposability in that observation, though; people in the ago didn’t expect to have to replace expensive things at anything like our current pace.

Today’s pen, not getting a lot of neglect to date: Pelikan Souverän M600, although…
Today’s ink: Mont Blanc Racing Green  has been in it for rather a while.

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Duelling Magicians, Drooling Comedian

Posted by Dirck on 26 July, 2013

Earlier this week, I mentioned T.A. Edison and his Electric Vendetta– the man really had something up is nose on the subject of alternating current.  The cause of wacky summer fun suggests pursuing this notion by presenting a catastrophically drunk person speaking about the rivalry between notable deaf fellow and Nikola Tesla.  Due to an inexplicable decision of the content’s creator, you’ll have to click the following link and watch it on Youtube itself rather than have it conveniently embedded right here.  This may be to give you a moment to consider if you’re in a place where watching a catastrophically drunk person hold forth on any topic is appropriate.  If the boss is looking over your shoulder, you may be embarrassed.

So, if you’re ready for it, it’s ready for you.

Today’s pen: Pelikan Souverän M600
Today’s ink: Mont Blanc Racing Green 

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Hands Off for Best Results

Posted by Dirck on 17 July, 2013

If one presses me to describe myself in terms of religion, I will usually say I’m a Buddhist.  Some Buddhists disclaim it was a religion, preferring to use “philosophy” to describe it, but it fits etymologically as a religion in as much as it brings clumps of people together to pursue a given philosophy in, with allowance for sectarian variation, the same way.

If pressed further, I’ll own being not very good at Buddhism.  I’m far from a vegetarian, I have habits of acquisitiveness and covetousness, and I will happily put alcohol in my system.  I even carried an ant out of the house this morning, knowing full well that taking it off its scent-trail was writing its doom.  I try, but I have lapses.  It’s the lapse in the direction of alcohol that gives me some insight into an aspect of the thing I’m most interested in acquiring and coveting.

I recently read an article, which you may also wish to glance at, which spoke of some semi- or perhaps quasi-craft breweries currently in production.  I use the prefixes because at their creation, there was no question about their nature; small or even micro-breweries which produced beer of at least decent quality and in which flavour was allowed to reside (as opposed the extremely weak lagers of the major breweries, which are relatively uniform in the “taste” they offer and even more uniform in suggesting serving them at 0.01°c as a means of keeping your taste buds from working).  As beers in which flavour other than skunk could be found, many of these small operations found that they could not keep up with demand and the major players became aware of the public demand for something other than what they were churing out by the teraliter.  Big fish eat small fish, even in the beerquarium.

The thing that resonated in my head was this (which you’ll find about 2/3rds the way down that article):

Molson has also recently spun both Creemore and Granville into a separate corporation called Six Pints — a good sign that just might mean the big boy brewers are finally learning that the methods and metrics of craft beer are vastly different than mass-produced lager, and that their usual cookie-cutter approach simply doesn’t work.

The resonance comes from the frequent lamentation by myself, both here and on my site, and others about the pen forums, of the state of some major pen makers today.  The ones about which the most concern is heard, in my non-scientific observation, are Parker and Waterman.  They are also the ones which seem to suffer most from direct interference in in their craft from an owning corporation which cuts the cookies of disposable goods– Newell-Rubbermaid.

Sheaffer also gets a fair expression of concern, but certainly less than the other two.  They’re owned by Bic, which is also primarily concerned about disposable goods.  However, Bic is also first and foremost a maker of disposable pens, and I think this greater understanding of the specific domain has made for slightly fewer ructions in Sheaffer’s on-going existence.

Looking at a few others, the same effect seems to be at work.  Pelikan was having its worst time when it tried to diversify into other things, and the new owners lopped off the diversification; Pelikan is now, to all appearances, thriving.  Lamy sticks to what is knows, and look like lasting, and likewise Cross, Pilot and Sailor.  Mont Blanc is a bit outside my model, but they’re also in an incubator for golden eggs– they’re bound to be atypical.  I’ll stick Hero in as an atypicality at the other end of the price spectrum, as their expansion into various lines of industry don’t seem to have done them any harm; they are, of course, in a rather different atmosphere, and I don’t pretend to understand how China’s economy works apart from “through lashings of coal.”

I wonder if there’s any way to suggest to Newell-Rubbermaid that giving more autonomy to their pen-making appendages will lead to them functioning better?  I wonder if their understanding of “better” and mine have any overlap, too… I’m thinking of how Parker and Waterman might wander gently towards their respective bicentennials, rather than how they might maximally enrich shareholders during the next quarter.  As a certain cartoon and popular beer flavour once said, Le Sigh.

Today’s pen: Sheaffer 300
Today’s ink: Herbin Perle Noire

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All Puffed Up

Posted by Dirck on 15 July, 2013

A very literal title today– there’s something in the air that has me in the grip of an allergic vise.  I feel like I should look like one of Jim Henson’s less florid creations.

The hair's not quite right, but all the eyes lack is a certain redness.

The hair’s not quite right, but all the eyes lack is a certain damp redness.

Since I’ve taken enough antihistamines to make my continued survival an open question, I’m going to take off from trying to be amusing.  Hopefully whatever this is will blow over or away soon.

Today’s pen: Pelikan Souverän M600
Today’s ink: Mont Blanc Racing Green 

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Come the Millenium

Posted by Dirck on 10 July, 2013

Let me show you something which will be, by the time you see it, no longer true:

"Right Now" being then, as it were.

“Right Now” being then, as it were.

I’ve filled a thousand of these things.  Holy geez.  I will admit that when I realized what the count was yesterday I slightly regretted not having selected a Parker 50 for the vague Star Wars joke that could be founded upon it.

Another regret is that I don’t have any sort of interesting give-away in hand for this (purportedly) momentous occasion.  As usual, my own greed is a primary element in this state of affairs, but there’s also the matter of suitability.  I know I have given away some marginal Chinese pens in the past, but they generally had some aspect of interest in them.  Just at the moment, there’s a Reform that needs a heap of work on the point and feed, some rather tatty Wearevers, and… nothing that isn’t in pieces or missing a part.  Since the cubed tenth snuck up on me (a sign of how well I pay attention), all my largesse ideas were aimed at the site’s second relight anniversary– and that will be both worth the hubbub and announced well in advance.

As it stands, I think I’ll just pause a moment to mop my brow with a filthy cambric handkerchief while leaning upon the rustic and imaginary digital pitchfork I use to sling bits at the heap and feel the satisfaction of a job… hm.  Not “well done”, since it’s never really done and only intermittently worth a gander.  Shall I say “satisfyingly entered into,” perhaps?

 A long time past I contemplated how many words I’d heaped up in pursuit of this relatively empty howling, and lamented that the same effort wasn’t being applied to the fiction-writing I would like to one day thrust upon the world.  I now realize that I’m only doing my part in the grand labour of modern humanity– creating as much data every day as possible, whether it’s of any utility or not.  I read, after all, that just about all the data ever created has fizzed into existence in the past two years.  Isn’t that great?  We’ve made a huge pile of… well, nothing at all, really, unless it gets printed out.  And here I’ve just made another fine lump of self-referential meta-cognition.  The day’s quota, met!

It does make me wonder how much headway that Prizm thing would actually make.  I know I don’t try to shovel snow while a blizzard is underway.

Today’s quietly celebratory pen: Pelikan Souverän M600
Today’s ink: Mont Blanc Racing Green 

edited to add:

The odometer, having clicked, clicks on....

The odometer, having clicked, clicks on….

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Another Gift

Posted by Dirck on 5 July, 2013

The last stub entry before the return to regular service, this is not a Friday film but a link to a heap of short, whimsical films.  If you’re anything like me, when faced with a difficult intellectual problem, you pause and ask yourself, “What would H.P. Lovecraft do?”  Well, it’s now possible to not only ask the question in a metaphorical sense, but to put it to the Old Man of Providence himself.

Today’s pen: Pelikan Souverän M600 (going out for a tea-date with the wife!)
Today’s ink: Mont Blanc Racing Green (the Pelikan’s first drink of a different brand’s ink!)

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